I want to start out by saying that although I have had a few little hiccups here and there when I travel, I have been incredibly fortunate that nothing tragic or horrible has happened while I am away (knock on wood!) And so I am definitely not trying to make light of anyone who has had any kind of harrowing experience while travelling or anyone who has experienced some kind of terrible travel related tragedy. What I’m talking about is the basic little issues we have learned to become more and more accustomed to the longer we travel long term.
As I mentioned, we've been lucky and haven’t had anything happen that we haven’t been able to recover from. But for the past five years, we’ve been travelling about half the year or more and so this means that inevitably there will be some setbacks, here and there. When these things happen, it is soo hard to see out of them and to realize that there will be another side, eventually.
I’ve been sick a few times while travelling, but never as much as on my first long trip away. After a couple bouts of food poisoning that had me laid up for a day or two, I had a REALLY bad bout of food poisoning in India that just didn’t go away. And I mean, it didn’t. For months. In Rishikesh I spent days on the toilet with a bucket to puke in. Literally, both ends. TMI much? And then finally the vomiting abated so at least one end was getting better, but the other one, not so much. Months went by. From India, we flew to Berlin, and we were walking around sightseeing all day and I barely had the energy to keep going. All I wanted to do was sleep. Eventually I went to the hospital. They put me on an IV and did some tests and determined that I had a parasitic infection in my stomach but it wasn’t one of the bugs they knew about and they needed to do more testing. At the Centre for the Prevention of Disease Control. I wish I could say this was the end of it, but after travelling to that hospital, they wanted to keep me for two weeks minimum and because we didn’t have travel insurance, I turned them down and they gave me some pills for the pain and we left! We moved to Prague and I got a job, and tried to ignore it and just slept my way through the next few months until we went back home finally and I could recover. Altogether I was sick for around four months. And today I am fine although I never found out what exactly I had!
In another example, after preparing for months to travel to Bali, we were turned around at the airport in Singapore because we couldn’t produce the right documents proving our return flight home and ran out of time before our plane boarded. Although we had a flight home, we were unprepared, made some mistakes and the airline counter dude was a jerk. We missed our flight and had to throw the tickets away and our whole plans had to change.
These are just two examples of our little trials and tribulations. We’ve had other experiences worse and not as bad, and I’m sure we’ll have many more. Looking back on these trials, I have realized that they have made me stronger. As crazy as it sounds, the more trying experiences I have, while travelling, the more experience I have with various situations and scenarios and these prepare me better for the next time something happens. We’ve lost things, thought we lost things that we then found later after losing our minds, we’ve missed airplanes, sat and waited forever for trains, totally had to rearrange plans, had people cheat us, had buses leave us in the middle of nowhere instead of taking us to the right destination, the list goes on.
But through these experiences, I am more able to look at a negative situation now and realize a few very important things:
Almost everything is fixable and what can’t be fixed often doesn’t need to be worried about
Almost everything is replaceable, apart from health and safety so make sure those two things are always priorities
Almost everything bad is temporary and things do get better
Often what looks really horrible can look a lot better after sleep, a shower and some food
Don't lump all your bad experiences into one shit sandwich just because they seem to be happening at the same time (it's just a coincidence!)
For all the months that I was sick, it was pretty hard to see out of that situation. But I know now it did make me stronger and wiser. We have been sick travelling since that, and now we just don’t mess around-if we feel shitty, have a fever, whatever-we go to the hospital! And then we get medicine and everything gets better. When we lost our ticket and had to abandon all our plans to go to Bali, I was devastated. All that planning and money out the window. I was so angry and didn’t want to still be in Singapore and didn’t know what to do next. But after a bit of a meltdown and a shower and some food back at our hotel, we were able to see things more clearly and accept the situation as it is, and realize that things could be worse. We’re not always great at getting to that point of realization when we are in the situation, but usually we can get there eventually. And we’re still learning.
What about you? Have you had any harrowing travel experiences that have taught you something even if you couldn’t see it right away?